Notre Dame is 12-0 and we have been celebrating that since late Saturday night. I think that there was something lost in this game, in regards to the media reaction. It's OK. The stakes were so high, with the BCS title game being involved, that it may have been easy for them to dismiss how much this game meant to the Irish on a singular level. Southern Cal is Notre Dame's biggest rival, and regardless of what was on the line- they wanted this game. They wanted the Jeweled Shillelagh. They wanted to burn Troy to the ground.
The Top 5
1. Theo Riddick. Throughout the entire history of the USC series, Notre Dame has had some players absolutely rise to the occasion ad take over the game to help the Irish win. Theo Riddick is now in that same category. His running was more than inspired- it was divine. His 20 carries for 146 yards was a thing of beauty. Riddick has always been known as a "shifty" runner, but he ran with so much determination and power that you had a sense that he wanted this game more than anyone on the field.
2. Mathias Farley. Farley has been one of the most overlooked players on this Irish defense. With a squad full of stars, it is easy to see how that could happen, but Farley has been super consistent. He led the team in tackles against USC with 9, and was in on one of the biggest plays on that final goaline stand, while coming off the edge. He just doesn't miss a tackle.
3. Everett Golson. Golson had another stellar performance on the road with 217 yards passing and another 47 yards on the ground. The biggest key to Golson's success was his ability to stay calm and not turn the ball over. He didn't force a lot of throws despite some frustrations in the red zone. He didn't let the pressure of being #1 and playing for a spot in the BCS Championship ever get to him. His evolution this year is almost complete.
4. Jeweled Shillelagh. The flow of this rivalry has changed. The Jeweled Shillelagh is back in South Bend and the Irish have now won 2 of the last 3 versus USC and have won both of those games on the road. This game means so much to both schools. Not only does it matter in the win/loss column, but for national prestige and the all important recruiting brags. Owning this trophy is part of the whole, "Notre Dame is back" angle.
5. Manti Te'o. It just seems like the same story each week. Te'o lifts this defense up to a new level. His leadership, play, and emotional supercharger helped Notre Dame deny USC on both of its goaline stands. Add ANOTHER interception to his total, and even though ND couldn't capitalize in the end zone, it kept USC from creating any offensive momentum. Te'o provides more than stats, and that's the reason he is up for the Heisman, and why any other player mentioned to win it other than Te'o gets an eye roll and a sigh from me.
Irish Fans. All of you wonderful bastards that were at the game- BRAVO. It felt and sounded like an Irish invasion.
Brian Kelly. Kelly is so damn close to becoming a Notre Dame coaching legend one year after taking so much criticism. Love you Brian!!!
Swift Kick To The Nuts
NOBODY. I just don't care about anything that pertains to the negative right now. I'm sure that there are many deserving candidates to have my foot exploding on their balls- but I'm too busy dancing!
I was one of the many that had the Irish winning only 8 or 9 games this season. Ever since I started this website at the end of the 2006 season, I have always predicted a National Championship. Why? It's not that I thought ND was the best team in the country before the start f all of those seasons, it was just that "WHY NOT?" It was for my own fun and fandom. This season, for whatever reason, I just couldn't get past reality. I had to pick something more "real."
Oh silly, stupid me. Of course this season we go 12-0. This season has been the most enjoyable ND Football season I have ever had- OBVIOUSLY. I was 10 years old in 1988, and 1993 was incredible- but ended so insanely. This 2012 season is just incredible.
And I never saw it coming. Bravo.